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Former UNC Chancellor Thorp steps down as Washington University provost

Thorp says UNC will put academic standards in place that will be ‘national news’

During an interview with News & Observer reporters, then-UNC chancellor Holden Thorp says UNC will raise academic standards for athletes and make changes that will make national news and that academics will come first.
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During an interview with News & Observer reporters, then-UNC chancellor Holden Thorp says UNC will raise academic standards for athletes and make changes that will make national news and that academics will come first.

Former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, who left in 2013 amid major academic and athletic scandals, is stepping down from his role as provost at Washington University in St. Louis.

Thorp will leave his position July 15 and take a one-year sabbatical, according to Wash U. He’ll return to the elite private university in a “newly created leadership role in the drug discovery and innovation space,” the university announced Wednesday.

Thorp’s 6-year stint as second-in-command was marked by his success in making the student body and faculty more innovative, academically gifted and socioeconomically and racially diverse, the university said in a news release.

“We owe a significant debt of gratitude to Holden Thorp for lending his considerable talents to Washington University during his six years as provost,” Chancellor Andrew Martin said in a news release. “Thanks in large part to his outstanding leadership, we are poised to take the university into its next era of excellence in research, scholarship, teaching and learning.”

Thorp said being provost will be a highlight of his career and that working there has been “a joy every day.”

His time in St. Louis looked different than the five years he spent as chancellor of the Chapel Hill campus, the N&O previously reported. At Washington, Thorp hired an athletic director in a much lower-profile athletic scene — where top job candidates drove in for interviews and students admit they don’t know the quarterback’s name. Thorp worked closely with undergraduate students, served as a faculty member in chemistry and medicine and quickly earned the title Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor. He wore black leather pants, combat boots and a tight Ramones T-shirt while playing bass guitar in a student-run punk rock musical called “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”

Thorp spent three decades at UNC, most recently serving as chancellor. Two of his years as chancellor were particularly difficult as he was forced to confront the discovery of 18 years of academic fraud involving hundreds of student-athletes and investigations by the NCAA and former North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin.

Thorp was replaced by Carol Folt, who also lead the university through a tumultuous time. She was at the helm during the Silent Sam Confederate statute controversy and left her job in January 2019 after nearly six years as chancellor.

When Thorp stepped down from his position in Chapel Hill, Thorp said he wanted to get back into the classroom and the lab, which is where he spent his undergraduate years at UNC. He accomplished that, only in a different city.

And now, Thorp, who developed technology for electronic DNA chips and co-founded Viamet Pharmaceuticals, seems to be going back to his pharmaceutical and research roots as he prepares to take on his future role in the drug discovery and innovation at Wash U.

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